CINCINNATI - The Myers-Lieber swap worked perfectly. Beautifully, actually.
Then Tom Gordon blew it.
Gordon, who hasn't thrown a clean inning once this season, served a two-out, game-tying home run to Scott Hatteberg in the bottom of the ninth inning last night in a killer 2-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds in 10 innings at Great American Ball Park.
After Gordon blew his second save in five opportunities this season, he finished the job in the 10th when he loaded the bases with one out. The winning run scored on Brandon Phillips' single to left.
"It's tough to swallow," Gordon said. "I feel for our ball club. We could have won two in a row, and it would have been great."
The Phillies are 4-11 as their season of proclamations and high expectations continues its free fall. They haven't gone this long into a season without winning back-to-back games since 1982, when they needed 22 games to accomplish the feat.
It's been brutal. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee took a calculated but considerable risk Wednesday when they decided to move Brett Myers, their opening-day starter, into the bullpen as a setup man and have Jon Lieber, who was supposed to have been traded months ago, take his place.
"If our record was reversed and we were 10-4?" Manuel said. "Probably wouldn't have made it."
Lieber, working on a pitch count of 75 to 90, allowed just one hit in 52/3 shutout innings. Myers pitched a scoreless eighth.
"It's not about me pitching," Lieber said. "It's a tough loss."
Lieber had a runner on third with two out in the sixth when Manuel called for righthander Geoff Geary. Lieber had thrown 77 pitches at that point. He believed he could have pitched to one more batter.
"Yeah, I did," he said. "I can understand the situation. I can't remember the last time I threw that many pitches to that point right off the bat, so I don't think they wanted to push it too much. I felt like I had one more batter in me, but like I said, I understand the situation."
After Geary, Manuel needed two more pitchers to get out of the sixth, with Antonio Alfonseca pitching a perfect seventh and Myers pitching a scoreless eighth.
Gordon had been up three times in the bullpen in Wednesday's 13-inning loss in Washington before throwing 23 pitches in Thursday's victory over the Nationals. But he said he felt fine as he stepped onto the mound in the ninth. In fact, he retired the first two batters he faced before Hatteberg went deep.
"I caught Flash," said Hatteberg, who was 1 for 8 lifetime against him. "I kind of have an idea of what he's going to do."
In the 10th, Gordon walked Javier Valentin with one out, allowed a single to Ryan Freel, and walked Adam Dunn to load the bases before Phillips knocked in the winning run with a single through a drawn-in infield. Gordon might not have pitched the 10th, but Manuel had only Ryan Madson and Francisco Rosario left in the bullpen, and Manuel said Madson wasn't available.
He chose to go with Gordon over Rosario.
Manuel made a move Wednesday that he said would improve his pitching staff when he flipped Myers and Lieber. So why not flip Myers and Gordon? Gordon is 0-1 with a 5.68 ERA in six appearances. In 61/3 innings, he has allowed 10 hits, four runs, four walks, one hit batter and two home runs. He has struck out six.
"Right now, Gordon is our closer," Manuel said. "He's been a closer. We signed him to be a closer. . . . That's something we haven't even discussed, and in some ways there's no need to discuss it. We've got to get him sharp. The stuff is there."
But if the Phillies need a closer tonight, it will be Myers, because Gordon won't pitch three days in a row.
That could be a good thing in a season without anything good to talk about.
"We're a little snakebit right now," Lieber said.
Maybe - if the snake is from the Ice Cube classic Anaconda. Because this team can't buy a win right now.
Check out Phillies beat writer Todd Zolecki's blog at http://blogs.phillynews.com/inquirer/zozone/.
Listen to his Phillies podcast at http://go.philly.com/philliescast.